Summary: James gets even firmer as he declares what superior faith is NOT! This entire series is available as an ebook entitled "James: Who has Superior Faith" via the ibook store (itunes) or in nook format via Barnes and Noble. The cost of this conversational c
4:11-12 Superior Faith does not Ruin Reputations
One would think that believers would know that they should not slander one another. Throughout the scriptures we are commanded to be honest about one another. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 15, “LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman.”
Slander may not be the only thing James has in mind. The King James translation of this verse is a bit stronger because it refers to not just slander, but evil-speaking. In simple terms James just wants these folks to stop the verbal destruction of reputations.
How can one claim to walk in God’s presence yet ruin the reputation of a fellow believer? Once again, the answer has to be selfishness. These folks were so intent on climbing the ladder of so-called spiritual success and recognition of their authority in church that they were willing to destroy the reputations of fellow believers. They were building their own reputations at the expense of others.
The most despicable villain that I can recall is found in Shakespeare’s play, Othello. The villain is Iago, a scoundrel if ever there was one. Iago is angered because Othello, his military commander, has chosen to promote Cassio. He then embarks upon a campaign of twisted lies, half-truths, and exaggerations as he seeks to discredit Cassio. His goal is to torture Othello as he paints a false picture of a love affair between Cassio and Othello’s beautiful wife, Desdemona. Othello, in a fit of rage, believes the accusations and strangles his wife. While this is a fictional story it certainly illustrates the evil of those who seek to ruin the reputation of others.
In America, we are somewhat used to that type of behavior outside the church. The most recent presidential campaign was no exception. Campaigns worked diligently to dig up dirt on other candidates. Vicious emails, many from Christians, were forwarded all over the internet stating falsely that Mr. Obama is a Muslim. We may have grown used to mud-slinging. It was grossly inappropriate for Christians to participate in spreading falsehood. It was nothing short of sin. It is always sin to use falsehood.
Slander is the worst type of theft. The Scripture says that “A good name is more desirable than great riches,” (Proverbs 22:1) Personally, I have no great wealth. The most valuable thing I have is my good name. When people seek to take your good name it is the worst possible type of theft. I’d much rather they take my television, computer, guitars, etc.
James strongly condemns the practice of destroying and condemning other believers. He is speaking about simply “judging” right and wrong. He is talking about the manner in which these people were destroying one another. It was not their prerogative to destroy each other.
I have to point out that this “judging” is not about making moral decisions about others, but rather about seeking to destroy others. Another often quoted out of context is Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Well-meaning people enjoy quoting that Scripture but leave out the verse the follows it. Matthew 7:2 says, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Rather than saying that we are not to judge, it is that we are to be cautious in our judgment because we get measured the same way. In fact, in the same chapter Jesus goes on to warn against false prophets and he tells us that we will know them by their fruits. How are we to know them if we are not able to judge them?
The truth is we have to make moral judgments regarding those who would seek to take spiritual authority over us. However, there is a difference between choosing not to follow or fellowship with a person and destroying their lives. Before we talk about the sinfulness of others we need to deal with our own first. That is why Jesus continued (in Matthew 7) with a discussion of removing the beam in our eye before dealing with the splinter in our neighbor’s eye.
Are you willing to be judged by the measurement you use to judge with. I know a church where the senior pastor was castigated and destroyed by rumor and innuendo, much of it via email. The rumor dealt with complaints that the pastor was not spending enough hours in the office and somehow being derelict in his duties. The Pastor resigned his position and the church called the youth pastor who himself had started and spread the rumors. The ironic thing is that this very man had been hired on a full-time basis. He was supposed to work in the church’s private school during the morning hours and do youth pastor work in the afternoons. Soon, he was missing in action from the classroom almost on a daily basis. He was constantly officiating at funerals or running family errands. There were some days that he came and sat in his office, refusing to enter the classroom he was hired to work in. This man literally was able to use slander to drive the senior pastor from the job and to take control of the church, which has since seen a serious split. I would imagine that he would not be willing to be judged using the same measure he used to oust the senior pastor.